Attracting big business to NM: A look at the problems and possible solutions | KOB 4

Attracting big business to NM: A look at the problems and possible solutions

Steve Soliz
August 31, 2018 06:19 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Great weather, breathtaking views and a rich culture have not been enough to lure some of the biggest companies in the world to New Mexico.


"Our largest employers here in Albuquerque are primarily public institutions," said Rachel Sams, editor-in-chief of Albuquerque Business First.

Sams said Albuquerque Public Schools, Kirtland Air Force Base, and Sandia National Labs are examples of the state’s largest employers.

“As of the last data I saw on Santa Fe, their largest employer was also health care. It was Christus St. incent," Sams said.

According to the New Mexico Career Development Association, Intel is the state’s largest technology employer. The company has about 1,200 New Mexicans on its payroll.

Many people have wondered what New Mexico can do to convince more large companies to call the Land of Enchantment home.

Jeffrey Mitchell, the director of the UNM Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says there are currently no Fortune 500 companies in New Mexico.

However, Mitchell says the problem is not unique to New Mexico.

“The vast majority of these businesses are located in very few places. They're in New York, California, Texas - in the bigger metropolitan areas. I think that it's difficult for smaller states and smaller metro areas to compete with those larger areas," Mitchell said.

Albuquerque has tried to lure companies such as Amazon and Tesla but ultimately failed.

Mitchell said large companies have specific needs that they need to make sure will be fulfilled before they make a move.

“Big businesses need deep, large labor forces and a state the size of New Mexico and a city the size of Albuquerque doesn't necessarily have that depth of labor force," Mitchell said.

Another problem, according to Mitchell, New Mexico may not be able to afford to invest in luring big business.

“Look at what we're seeing in Amazon, look at what we're seeing in Tesla, these firms are going after huge windfalls that a state - it's going to take a very long time to recover those return," Mitchell said.

Long-term Strategy

How can New Mexico build its economy to create jobs and wealth?

The answer may be to build on what the state already has.

"If you look at the places that have been very successful, whether it's California, Washington, Denver, Austin, East Coast, what they have done well is find a few firms that have grown in place. They’re homegrown businesses that are - now, we look at and say ‘well those are huge businesses’ - but they weren't ten years ago," Mitchell said.

He believes investing in local businesses is the key to the future of New Mexico.

“We have talent, ideas and a high quality of life here. Now, I think we need to embrace that and support it in its development and stop looking at the situation, such as, we need somebody else and the rest of the world to fix our problems," Mitchell said.

New Mexico will be electing a new governor in November. Mitchell said either Steve Pearce or Michelle Lujan Grisham will have an opportunity to build a strong economic future.

“The quickest way you can get success is by recruiting a firm, come in, get your picture taken in front of it, everything looks great. The alternative strategy of looking locally, nurturing your own business environment, building your education system is not a four year project, it's a ten, twenty-year project," Mitchell said.

However, Mitchell admits that political leaders would have to take a risk in order to be successful in sustaining long-lasting business results.

"You pay the price, if you will, for the first few years but the return on that is long after you're out of office,” Mitchell said. “That, in my mind, is leadership.


Steve Soliz

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